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Surpisingly charming for a difficult genre - the sitcom Rom Com
on July 20, 2011
I watched Happy Endings on Hulu after it premiered because I had heard vaguely of it - and it was a good decision. What sounded like a hard-to-continue concept, Alex(Elisha Cuthbert) leaves her fiance Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the alter and the fallout as their long-time friends try to avoid choosing "sides," actually worked here. The supporting cast of friends include married couple Jane and Brad (Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans Jr.), perpetually single Penny (Casey Wilson), and Max (Adam Pally, a breath of fresh air in that he plays a gay character whose main source of comedy is not that he's "the gay guy").
A word of warning, ABC aired a few episodes OBVIOUSLY out of order. The show appears to dismiss the problem where Alex left Dave at the alter rather briskly and then we see them trying to stay friends and move on - and what's odd is the group's easy chemistry and the fun writing mean you don't mind too much. Later, though, you'll see a pair of episodes that show Alex and Dave fighting and struggling to come to terms with the end of their relationship before recognizing that they can eventually still be friends. These were clearly meant to air second and third. If you watch them in this order, the friendship will probably seem more organic than the quick fix of the second episode as aired.
Other than this hiccup, this first season is fun and light. Cuthbert and Knighton play their relationship perfectly - they have years of history and still like each other as people, but play those awkward moments where one starts to move on romantically quite poignantly. The transition is never made to look easy. Coupe, most well-known perhaps for her turn on the later seasons of Scrubs, is hilarious as the control-freak Jane and Wayans plays the long-suffering husband with just the right amount of tolerance born out of love.
The episode that I would hands-down show to any first-time viewer is Dave of the Dead. The heart-warming A-story is Dave trying to revisit his dream of opening a restaurant (his idea is terrible, but Jane doesn't want anyone to crush his dream yet). However, it is the B-story that steals the show: Penny meets a great funny guy while doing laundry (and of course wearing their awkward laundry day outfits) only to discover that he ACTUALLY dresses like that. Max has the best line here: "Penny, you know what he is? He's a hipster. Everything that you like, he likes ironically." He takes her to an underground mix tape party and invites her and the group to a 90's-themed bat mitzvah, but is immediately disgusted when Penny actually dresses up for the theme because it seems like she's trying too hard.
I was convinced I was the only person watching this show (though I sent links for Dave of the Dead to everyone!) and was delighted that ABC renewed it. Hopefully it can be paired with something strong in the fall to get the viewership it deserves.